Melaka sets the stage for how future election battles are fought in Covid-19’s long shadow

·5-min read
Perikatan Nasional and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) flags are seen waving at Jalan Bachang, Melaka, November 7, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Perikatan Nasional and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) flags are seen waving at Jalan Bachang, Melaka, November 7, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 — The Melaka state election will see three major political coalitions, namely Barisan Nasional (BN), Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN), vying for the chance to take charge of the state.

The coalitions helmed Melaka in one way or another over the past four years and all three have stressed in preliminary campaigning that the polls are an opportunity for voters to choose the state government that they want.

The next Melaka government will be determined by the state’s 495,195 registered voters, with women voters outnumbering men marginally at 254,666 or 51.43 per cent.

Data released by the Election Commission (EC) also revealed that 76.1 per cent of registered voters in Melaka are between 21 and 59 years of age.

The upcoming polls will see all 28 state seats contested by the three major coalitions, the candidacy of surprise independents, and even fringe political parties notwithstanding.

This includes former Pengkalan Batu assemblyman Datuk Norhizam Hassan Baktee who has decided to defend his seat as an Independent.

Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra) also announced that its candidates will be running in five seats, namely in Pengkalan Batu, Gadek, Paya Rumput and Duyong Sungai Rambai.

Meanwhile, set to steal the limelight are former Melaka chief minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron and Datuk Nor Azman Hassan, previously from Umno, who are now contesting under the PH banner.

Despite the general reluctance of PH coalition partners to publicly address concerns about the duo, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim attempted to put the issue of party hopping to rest last week, saying it is moot now that the state assembly is dissolved.

Pakatan Harapan and DAP flags are seen at Ayer Keroh, Melaka, November 7, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Pakatan Harapan and DAP flags are seen at Ayer Keroh, Melaka, November 7, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Fresh faces, stringent SOPs

At the time of writing, the Melaka state polls are likely to see at least 90 candidates throwing their hat into the ring.

For PH, PKR will be contesting 11 seats, Amanah nine, and DAP eight.

As for PN, Bersatu will be contesting 15 seats, while components PAS and Gerakan will stand for eight and five seats respectively.

Finally, for BN, Umno will be contesting 20 seats, MCA seven and MIC one.

All three coalitions are fielding new faces who are also below the age of 40 — comprising 12 candidates from PN, 10 from PH and four from BN.

The youngest candidates are PKR’s Farzana Hayani Mohd Nasir, 21, who will be contesting the Sungai Rambai seat and DAP’s 25-year-old Muhamad Danish Zainudin who will be standing in Pengkalan Batu.

Despite the excitement surrounding the emergence of new candidates, challenges abound for political parties to conduct an effective campaign, as the Ministry of Health has banned all election-related gatherings, including house-to-house visits and ceramah.

Prior to the official start of the election period, various parties had protested the decision to prohibit in-person campaigning activities, on the grounds that online campaigning could be ineffective as not all voters have internet access.

However, voter sentiments gauged by Malay Mail indicated party trumps candidate, especially those with deep-rooted ties to the state.

“PH and Perikatan announced a lot of new faces lately. I don’t think anyone here knows them at all. But from what I can see, people have decided to vote for a party rather than a candidate, especially when it comes to parties like Umno and PAS. It is easier that way rather than get confused,” said a Kampung Bemban voter who wished to be known as Kushairi.

At the time of writing, the EC has yet to issue a detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) for the state election.

However, Melaka could set a precedent as to how future elections are conducted as the country moves onto the endemic stage.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is seen greeting members of the public at an eatery in Jeti Kampung Halim, Melaka October 30, 2021. — Bernama pic
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is seen greeting members of the public at an eatery in Jeti Kampung Halim, Melaka October 30, 2021. — Bernama pic

Lack of enthusiasm

Melaka has seen three different state administrations headed by three different chief ministers in the span of four years.

The state election takes place amidst a stabilising Covid-19 situation in the country after nearly three months of strict lockdown that saw large swathes of Malaysian households severely impacted financially.

While over 90 per cent of the nation’s adult population have been vaccinated, some voters here worry about the Melaka state election turning into a super-spreader event, as was the case with last year’s Sabah state election.

Of greatest concern would be elderly voters, who are particularly vulnerable to the highly infectious and deadly disease, according to a Pengakalan Batu voter who wished to be known as Rahim and is his 68-year-old mother’s primary caregiver.

“I worry most about my elderly parents. There is so much risk surrounding Covid-19, not to mention all the variants there are still around and the danger they pose. So, for the time being, I told my mother not to take the risk and vote.

“This is a sentiment shared by many who take care of elderly parents. It is better to avoid the situation rather than take the risk,” he said.

The current mood in Melaka is generally one of disinterest and apathy when it comes to politics or any other election-related activities.

Party flags, slogan-filled banners and political posters plastered with the faces of candidates, usually ubiquitous in any election even before the official campaign period kicks off, are largely absent, bar those that festoon a few houses, district political operation centres and district polling centres, which are simply known as PDM.

As with any other part of the nation, shuttered stores and empty commercial centres became the norm in the state during the recent lockdown.

Residents are more concerned with getting their business or financial affairs in order than who will form the next state government.

And even more so now, following the easing of travel restrictions, as Melaka slowly benefits from the throng of visitors from the Klang Valley, especially during the weekends.

Melaka will vote on November 20, with 28 state seats to be contested following the collapse of the previous government.

Nomination Day is today, while early voting will take place on November 16.

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